For those who missed the full moon treat on January 1, a rare celestial treat awaits you on January 31, marking the last in a trilogy of supermoons. The first happened on December 3, 2017, NASA said in a report. A supermoon is a full moon at its closest point to the Earth on its orbit – known as perigee.
The January 31 full moon is special for three reasons: it’s the third in a series of ‘supermoons’, and about 14 per cent brighter than usual. It’s also the second full moon of the month, commonly known as a ‘blue moon’, which happens every two and a half years, on average.
The super blue moon will pass through earth’s shadow to give viewers in the right location a total lunar eclipse. While the moon is in the earth’s shadow it will take on a reddish tint, known as a ‘blood moon’, Gordon Johnston, lunar blogger at NASA Headquarters in Washington, NASA said in a statement.
It will feature a total lunar eclipse, with totality viewable from western North America across the Pacific to Eastern Asia. For those living in North America, Alaska, or Hawaii, the eclipse will be visible before sunrise on 31st of this month.
So for viewers in New York or Washington, D.C., the Moon will enter the outer part of Earth’s shadow at 5:51 a.m., but Johnston says it won’t be all that noticeable. The darker part of Earth’s shadow will begin to blanket part of the Moon with a reddish tint at 6:48 a.m. EST, but the Moon will set less than a half-hour later. “So your best opportunity if you live in the East is to head outside about 6:45 a.m. and get to a high place to watch the start of the eclipse—make sure you have a clear line of sight to the horizon in the west-northwest, opposite from where the Sun will rise,” said Johnston.
But if you live in the Central time zone, viewing will be better, since the action begins when the Moon is higher in the western sky. At 4:51 a.m. CST the penumbra -- or lighter part of Earth’s shadow – will touch the Moon. By about 6:15 a.m. CST the Earth's reddish shadow will be clearly noticeable on the Moon. However, for those in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand, the ‘super blue blood moon’ can be seen during moonrise in the morning on the 31st, Johnston noted in a press release.
December’s full moon, traditionally known as the ‘cold moon’, marked the first and only supermoon of 2017. It appeared about seven per cent larger and 15 per cent brighter. If you miss the January 31 lunar eclipse, you’ll have to wait almost another year for the next opportunity in North America, Johnston warns.
To watch a NASA ScienceCast video, A Supermoon Trilogy about the Dec. 3, 2017, Jan. 1, 2018, and Jan. 31, 2018 supermoons, watch the video below